Aviation has always been very alluring and attracted many exceptional people. We all have heard of Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, or Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. The list is long and that’s why we came up with an idea to present people who currently work in aviation. In the “Faces of Aviation” series, we will talk with pilots, training managers, instructors, cabin crew and share their stories, goals and dreams. We want to introduce these exceptional individuals as we genuinely believe that they make aviation so unique.
When we develop training solutions for the aviation industry, we always keep the end-user – pilots and cabin crew – in mind, so it is essential to know them better. Learning about their challenges and goals is one of the many ways we get inspiration for creating the best training experiences.
We are starting our series with Łukasz (Luke) Czepiela. Luke is an accomplished aerobatic pilot from Poland, captain on Airbus A320, who works for Wizz Air and competed in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship Challenger Class. His road to success was very challenging, but he never steered away from the goal he had set up as a small child – to become a pilot. And now, many kids are looking at Luke and dreaming that one day they could be just like him. With his hard work and determination, he has proved that nothing is impossible.
How did you get into flying aerobatics?
Everything started when I went to see an air display as a kid. From that moment, I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. I started to help at the local air club and in return, I was awarded my first glider lesson. After I graduated from school, I moved to England, where I worked as an aviation mechanic and earned enough to start the aerobatic plane course.
There are many aerobatic display teams around the world, some military, and some civilian ones. One of the best and most popular teams is The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows.
The Red Arrows are part of the Royal Air Force. All members of the team have served on operational units including, fast jets of helicopters.
The team is the public face of the British Air Force. It was formed in late 1967. Up till now, The Red Arrows have performed over 4800 displays in 57 countries.
Luckily this year’s Bournemouth Air Show hasn’t been cancelled and will happen between 2nd and 5th of September. Check their website for more information and detailed program.
So the idea to become a commercial pilot came later?
Yes, after I flew more and gained experience as an aerobatic pilot, I decided to expand my career and become a commercial pilot. It is safe to say that aerobatics has always been the priority.
Do you remember your first flight?
I remember my first glider flight. I was 14 years old. To this day, I remember all the details. I can recall the registration of the plane that towed us, the name of the instructor, all the maneuvers that we performed that day. All these memories are still very vivid.
Are there any other memorable flights?
There are a couple of these flights. Sort of milestones. Definitely my first solo flight, the first time I flew between the pylons at the Red Bull race. It had been my dream for a long time and it was definitely a flight to remember.
Red Bull GmbH launched the Red Bull Air Race in 2003. It was an international series of air races in which competitors have to navigate a challenging obstacle course as fast as possible. The Red Bull Air Race features the world’s best racing pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision, and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight race planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kph while enduring forces of up to 12G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-metre-high, air-filled pylons.
If you were not a pilot, what else can you imagine yourself doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything outside of aviation, but if it were the case, most probably, I would do some extreme sports or maybe be a race driver. I just love adrenaline.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your career?
I have always had a plan of what to do. Before the pandemic started, I was flying as captain for Wizz Air, participating in races and shows, and on top of that, I was a keynote speaker at many conferences. A lot was going on and I was always very busy, and then a pandemic happened and verified everything. At one point, I was left with only my job at Wizz Air. I guess I still should consider myself lucky.
You are both a commercial pilot and an aerobatic pilot. Do you need a different mindset when you step onboard the Airbus A320 and when you prepare for the race?
I think both fields are complementary to each other. Because I work as a commercial pilot, I have introduced many safety procedures to my aerobatic flying, and it has become safer and better. On the other hand, I believe that thanks to my experience as an aerobatic pilot, I feel better prepared to face emergencies while flying for the airline.
What advice would you give to people considering a pilot career, but are concerned about the future of aviation that can seem quite unstable, mainly based on what we saw in 2020?
As we all can see, Aviation has been going through very challenging times. In my opinion, it is very important to set your goals and work hard to reach them. Visualise yourself in a cockpit, but most importantly, be very persistent in achieving your goals and dreams.
Luke, thank you for sharing your story with us. It was a pleasure to talk to you.
If you enjoyed Luke’s story stay tuned for more aviation related stories and news.
Are you ready for the new Global Reporting Format (GRF)?
All airport operations, flight crew, ATC and AIS staff must be familiar and trained for the new GRF before the 4th of November 2021.
Deadline for EASA member states is on the 12th of August 2021.
CLICK HERE to get more information.